In 1917, the Union Pacific Railroad produced a summer tourist brochure which noted: “The National Forests of Colorado offer an attractive variety of locations for permanent summer homes. Lots of ample size may be leased for a term of years, and the tourist who is tired of continuous travel may build for himself a cozy lodge on government land in the vastness of the Rockies where he may devote himself to the study of nature.”
That same year, the Forest Service “hired Frank A. Waugh, professor of Landscape Architecture at Massachusetts Agricultural College, Amherst (now University of Massachusetts) to prepare the first national study of recreation uses on the national forests.”
Recreation Uses in the National Forests, Waugh’s 1918 report, estimated that “some 3 million recreation visitors used the national forests each year.” He reported publicly funded “automobile camps” and picnic grounds in the national forests along with “fraternal camps, sanatoria, and commercial summer resorts” built and operated by the private sector. Waugh also noted “several hundred small colonies of individually owned summer cabins” on national forest land.
Information on the number of people actually using national forest land was not regularly collected. However, based on information available for the summer of 1916, Waugh estimated “a recreation return of $7,500,000 annually on national forest lands.”
First paragraph quotation from “Colorado for the Tourist,” produced by the Union Pacific Railroad for the summer tourist season of 1917.
Additional information and quotations from The USDA Forest Service – The First Century, FOREST PROTECTION OR CUSTODIAL MANAGEMENT 1910-1933
Photos courtesy U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library